Friday, January 06, 2006

Facts vs. Rhetoric on the Dean Campaign

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone out to sell a book bend the truth a bit. Today Kos, who was on the Dean campaign’s payroll to improve Dean’s perception in the liberal blogosphere, provides an “alternate history” as he does some selective reporting with fund raising totals, and more importantly mischaracterizes those who opposed them. While primarily speaking of the DLC, I suspect Kos believes this to be true of all Dean opponents when he claims:

their attacks had to be based on rhetoric and scare tactics, rather than tangible things like “facts”. They gave birth to the “unelectable” theme and provided the intellectual framework upon which Dean’s critics built their case against him.

It is hardly worthwhile to return to all the facts which led many of us, even people like myself who initially supported Dean, to oppose his candidacy. However, such a broad claim that opposition to Dean was purely based upon rhetoric and scare tactics demands that some of the facts be recalled.

While many “Dated Dean, Married Kerry” for a variety of reasons, for me the major reason came when the Medicare issue arose. While Dick Gephardt and John Kerry had raised valid criticisms, Dean initially stonewalled on answering. I was involved with Doctors for Dean at the time, and even had the opportunity to discuss my concerns with a Dean staffer for health care issues.

During the balanced budget battles, Dean had backed the budget cuts in Medicare which Newt Gingrich had advocated which were designed to destory the Medicare Program. It was a clear mistake, and if Dean had simply said he was wrong and provided a reasonable answer to questions regarding Medicare this might have been forgiven. Instead the Dean campaign came out with a series of evasive answers, ultimately providing outright lies as to what occurred. Dean further destroyed his credibility by proceeding to lie about the votes cast by other Senators. Even when talking about his present plans he was evasive.

Considering this was all a matter of public record, this was rather foolish. While the ditto heads at Daily Kos defended Dean without regards to the facts (with some even arguing to destroy Medicare when I challenged Dean’s position), the media knew better. For those who want to look further at the facts I have attached two articles. Particularly significant is the conclusions each author reached about Dean which forshadowed the problems Dean had with the media in the final stretch. Marie Cocco of Newsday wrote:

Voters generally judge not so much by whether there’s been a change of heart, but by a candidate’s forthrightness in explaining it. And on whether the flip-flopped issue has sufficient importance.

Dean’s already flunked the first test. He’ll find out soon enough that Medicare matters. Especially to the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

Thomas Oliphant also saw the facts he cited as a problem for Dean:

Bottom line: Gephardt and Kerry have a legitimate point, and Dean will have trouble expanding his remarkable base to the elderly and to voters of moderate means unless he does a more forthright job of facing up to his past.

There were other facts which hurt Dean and made the question of his electability real, and not based upon rhetoric and scare tactics. One key difference in positions between Kerry and Dean is that Dean proposed eliminating all the middle class tax cuts, while Kerry advocated eliminating them only for those making over $200,000 per year.

The significance of the middle class tax cuts in a general election is most profoundly demonstrated in a Democracy Corps Poll from October 23, 2003 . They found that a Democrat advocating the repeal of all Bush tax cuts lost to Bush by 5 points (44 to 49 percent). A Democrat who wanted to repeal the top rate cuts and maintain middle class tax cuts won the debate with Bush by 18 points (55 to 37 percent). This is a 23 point swing which provided a strong reason to support Kerry over Dean.

There were many other facts which made many question Dean’s suitability to be the nominee. The importance of military experience was demonstrated as the Bush campaign found it important to attack Kerry’s strength on this issue. While I personally sympathize with Dean’s actions and personally have no objection, the fact is that Dean’s evasion of the draft (along with lack of any military or foreign policy experience) would have been a major political liability post 9/11. The Republicans wouldn’t have needed to come up with the Swift Boat lies (or would they have attacked Dean with Aspen Ski Bums for Truth?).

Dean’s character was also brought into question on how he used Iraq. Undoubtedly he realized that there was ultimately only room in the race for one Northeastern liberal, and in a fair race he couldn’t compete with Kerry’s credentials for fighting unjust wars. Dean responded by distorting the meaning of Kerry’s vote on the IWR, fooling many into ignoring Kerry’s many statements opposing going to war. Ultimately publications from The Des Moines Register to Salon cast doubt on Dean’s integrity on this issue and showed how Dean and Kerry actually held very similar positions regardless of Dean’s rhetoric.

There were also many other facts which harmed the Dean campaign. Dean’s own gaffes did far more harm to him than any “scare tactics” from his opponents. For example, there were his statements on the Confederate Flag, from calling it a state’s rights issue for a Southern state to fly the flag over their capitol to his pickup truck gaffe. Dean’s record and positions on the environment and assault weapons concerned some liberal Democrats. Dean also suffered when he denied others the opportunity to review the facts with his sealing of his Vermont records.

Ultimately the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire took a close look at all the candidates. While Kos may believe that they voted based upon being swayed by scare tactics, it was the facts which decided the race in John Kerry’s favor.


Blogger dwahzon said...

Nicely written Ron. Thanks for putting this up.

4:18 AM  

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